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D.C. shadow senator predicts some Senate Republicans might support D.C. statehood

Paul Strauss argues that "admission of new states should be exempt from the filibuster."

Updated: April 19, 2021 - 11:26am

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Washington D.C. Shadow Sen. Paul Strauss said on Friday that he's "not giving up" on outreach to Senate Republicans for admission of D.C. as a state.

The statehood bill passed out of committee in the House this week.

"We have 45 official, on-the-record sponsors and supporters in the United States Senate, that is the highest number we've ever had, and that is literally five votes short of being able to pass the bill," Strauss, a Democrat, said during an interview Friday on "The Water Cooler."

"Every bill in the U.S. Senate you pass it with only 51 votes, but of course under the current filibuster rules, there's an argument that certain types of bills may need 60 votes to close debate and proceed to a 51-vote margin," he added. "That's a separate issue,"

Democrats control the Senate with a 51-50 majority when Vice President Kamala Harris is counted as the tie-breaking vote. The legislative filibuster requires 60 votes to advance a bill. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has predicted that the statehood bill would pass the Senate, but others have noted that the filibuster would apply to the statehood legislation. 

Strauss said on Friday that there's a chance Senate Democratic leaders will allow admission of D.C. as a state with a simple majority vote.

"I think we have a good argument that statehood, the admission of new states should be exempt from the filibuster because that's what the framers intended," he argued. "It was the framers that said you needed a two-thirds majority to remove a president from office following an impeachment, or a supermajority to recommend an amendment to the new state but when the framers themselves wrote the Constitution, they said simple majority was the threshold for the admittance of new states."

Democratic senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona both said that they oppose eliminating the legislative filibuster.

Strauss gave his assessment of the status of the filibuster. "Whether you make the filibuster intact for legislation overall is separate from whether you want to treat new states and the admission of new states the way the framers intended in the first place, so we'll see," he said. "Look, we don't have all 50 senators sponsoring the bill yet. We have five to go.

"I think when we get there, it's time for a serious discussion on that issue. But, you know, I'm not giving up on Republicans. I think that there are still some principled Republicans serving in the United States Senate, not as many as I would like to see. And whether you're for the bill or against the bill, I think it's wrong to use an arcane parliamentary trick like the filibuster to keep such an important question [from] being voted on." 

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